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3rd Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair

For the third time, antiquarian book enthusiasts from booksellers to avid experts to curious would-be collectors all came together under one roof at the Palazzo Mezzanotte in Milan, for the Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair. The fair took place Friday – Sunday, 27-29 March 2015. The event was put on by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Italy (ABAI) and supported by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). An extremely varied, high-class and well-attended event, the fair showcased all manner of antique paper treasure, from incunabula, maps, illuminated manuscripts, priceless unique documents and much more. Members of our AbeBooks European team attended and thoroughly enjoyed. Here are some images from the event.

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Leipziger Antiquariatsmesse in 2015

The Leipzig Antiquarian Book Fair is an international exhibit and trade fair showcasing books, maps, autographs, and other book-related and ephemeral treasure. This year’s event took place from Thursday, 12th March to Sunday, 15th March, and some AbeBooks staff was lucky enough to attend. Here are some photos from the fair:

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair

Leipzig Book and Antiquarian Fair


Terry Pratchett 1948 – 2015

terry-pratchettThe man who gave us Discworld is gone.

Sir Terry Pratchett died today, at home, surrounded by family, of complications from end-stage early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Throughout Pratchett’s lengthy career, he published over 70 books. He was by far best known for his Discworld books, a series of 40 bizarre and very funny fantasy novels set on the fictional “Discworld”, which is of course a flat disc placed on the backs of four elephants, who are standing atop the shell of a giant turtle. They’re like reading Tolkien, or at times even Aesop, if Tolkien and Aesop had wonderfully witty, nerdy, unapologetically groan-worthy senses of humour. The Discworld series garnered a fiercely dedicated group of fans, and has been translated into 37 languages to date.

One of Pratchett’s most successful non-Discworld books was his collaboration with Neil Gaiman called Good Omens, released in 1990. Pratchett’s cheerful zaniness and Gaiman’s dark, wry wit balanced perfectly to result in an extremely funny novel about witches, angels, the Beast, and children.

After Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2007, the author was shocked to learn how little money goes to Alzheimer’s research. He not only made a sizable donation himself, but also became a willingly vocal public champion of research into the disease. His efforts included a two-part documentary television special on the BBC about this experiences with Alzheimer’s, called Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimer’s. He made several other radio and television appearances to discuss the illness, as well.

As his condition deteriorated, Pratchett also stepped into the public eye to bring awareness to the right-to-die movement, whose mandate would grant the right, for terminally ill patients, to choose voluntary euthanasia to end their life.

In July 2014, Pratchett’s health forced him to miss a Discworld convention for the first time ever. He died today, March 12th, 2015. He was 66.


Longlist for the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Longlisted Books for the 2015 Bailey's Women's Prize for FictionThe longlist for the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced. Just to catch you up, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was begun as the Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996, changed its name to the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction in 2007, then back to the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009, then to the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2013, and now is the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

While finding a suitable label seems a challenge, finding a wealth of excellent literature to choose from is almost too easy. The prize is awarded annually to a female author for an original full-length novel. The winning author can be of any nationality, provided the book in question was written in English and published in the UK. A few of the previous winners include Carol Shields, Ann Patchett, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Zadie Smith. Last year’s victor was Eimear McBride, whose winning debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing also took the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, and several other honours.

Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of judges, says of the 2015 longlist:

“The Prize’s 20th year is a particularly strong one for women’s fiction. All judges fought hard for their favourites and the result is a 2015 list of 20 to be proud of – with its mix of genres and styles, first-timers and well-known names from around the world.”

Here is this year’s longlist:

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Outline by Rachel Cusk
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Aren’t We Sisters? by Patricia Ferguson
I Am China by Xiaolu Guo
Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The Offering by Grace McCleen
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
The Life of a Banana by PP Wong
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips
The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
How to be Both by Ali Smith
After Before by Jemma Wayne
The Shore by Sara Taylor
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Bees by Laline Paull

This is also exciting news for tiny independent publisher Legend Press, founded just 10 years ago. To land two titles – The Life of a Banana by PP Wong and After Before by Jemma Wayne – on the list, alongside heavy-hitter industry standard publishing houses like Hamish Hamilton, Jonathan Cape, Bloomsbury and Viking is quite a feather in the cap of the small publisher, whose four staff members (total) are clearly doing something right.

Of the 20 listed above, I’ve only read three, but my vote would be for The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. She is an author whose entire bibliography I would recommend, but I think The Paying Guests is her best offering so far. I could hardly put it down and was sad when it was over.

The shortlist will be announced on 13th April, with the winner following on 3rd June.


Classic Children’s Books Quiz

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Do you think you know children’s books? How well? Would you say the images of book covers from childhood are embedded in your brain?

Well, here’s a chance to find out. Test your mettle with this quiz of 30 classic childhood book covers. We chose the most iconic kids’ books we could think of, took a snippet from the cover, and enlarged it. Go on, take the quiz. Be sure to let us know how many you recognise correctly!


Imagine owning a copy of Alice in Wonderland signed by the original Alice

The signature of Alice Hargreaves – the original Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll

What’s the ultimate book for fans of Alice in Wonderland? It might be one of the Limited Editions Club editions from 1932 that were signed by Alice Hargreaves, the original Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll to write his fantastic story. AbeBooks sold such a copy for £2,500/$4,000 earlier this week.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is 150 years old this summer and you are going to see a lot of Alice-themed articles in the coming months as the literary world pays tribute to this iconic children’s book.

The LEC edition features the famous original illustrations by John Tenniel. Alice Hargreaves was the married name of Alice Liddell. Carroll was a close friend of the Liddell family and the nature of his relationship with Alice has been much debated. She went on to marry a cricketer called Reginald Hargreaves, and have three sons – two of whom were killed in World War I.

She was forced to sell her personal manuscript of Carroll’s book when she ran into financial problems, but the copy was eventually purchased by the British Library and brought back from America. Alice died in 1934.

The Limited Edition Club edition of Alice in Wonderland from 1932


Stefan Zweig: The Tragic Author Who Inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was the talk of Sunday’s 2015 Academy Awards. The delightful, unusual film was being nominated for nine Oscars, and won four, in the categories of Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Only Birdman, the best picture-winner, won as many. What few people seem to know is that Anderson’s original, beautiful tale of Gustave H and Zero the lobby boy is loosely based on and inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian novelist whose own story is enough to break your heart.

zweig-goebbelsZweig was Jewish, and at the apex of his career could be counted as one of the world’s most respected and popular authors. Hitler’s increasing followers and rise to power made him fearful and uncomfortable. In this original letter (left), Zweig writes for support and assistance to a Mr. Glaser. The precipitating event? Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister for the Third Reich, had publicly quoted Zweig as calling the German people a “horde that needed to be unmasked”, which Stefan Zweig had never said at all. Despite his desperate attempts to clear his name and have the truth brought to light, Zweig’s books began to appear at book burnings along with other Jewish-written works, and Zweig left Austria the following year, in 1934.

Discover more about Stefan Zweig and the whole story behind The Grand Budapest Hotel.


AbeBooks Explains Why Shakespeare’s First Folio is so Important

Our latest video explains why William Shakespeare’s First Folio is so significant. It’s full title is Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies and it was published in 1623. The First Folio is arguably the most important book in the English language.


Top Ten Books About Addiction

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This morning’s top 10 books list on The Guardian is a good one – top 10 books about addiction. There are some obvious choices like Irvine Welsh’s darkly funny, tragic and often really gross (that toilet scene…!) novel Trainspotting, and the surreal nightmare that is Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr, but also some more thoughtful interesting choices. For instance. The Shining by Stephen King. Funny how I’ve never considered before that it is a novel about addiction, but of course it is. I was too immersed in the murdery, isolated horror of it to think about the catalytic part that alcohol addiction plays.

The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll is another solid choice. And don’t think if you’ve seen the filmn you needn’t read the book. Both are quality, and nods to Leonardo DiCaprio for his excellent portrayal of Carroll, but the book is strangely beautiful. Carroll’s poetry, longing and ache for beauty really come through eloquently in its pages. It’s a haunting, wistful and very uncomfortable read.

Here are the Guardian’s picks for the top 10 books about addiction – click through to see what they had to say about each title:

1. The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon
2. The Shining by Stephen King
3. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
4. Gordon by Edith Templeton
5. Love Junkie: A Memoir by Rachel Resnick
6. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
7. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher
8. Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr
9. The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
10. In My Skin by Kate Holden


Olivia and the Measles: Roald Dahl’s Personal Vaccination Plea

dahlRecently, the subject of vaccination has been at the forefront of the American media, after an unvaccinated person at Disneyland in California precipitated an outbreak last month. Over 100 confirmed cases have now been reported, across 14 states. And immunisation, particularly against Measles, found a new ally in a resurgence of a decades-old, desperately sad letter from beloved British children’s author Roald Dahl .

Of all the so-called “mommy war” topics – cloth vs. disposable diapering, breastmilk vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. cribs and many, many more, the undeniably most heated topic is whether to vaccinate one’s children. It makes sense that it’s the topic about which people feel most passionate and fight most stringently – it’s the only topic whose outcome affects not just the child, or his/her parent, but peers, neighbours, and eventually, potentially everybody. And nobody knew that better than Dahl, whose letter details the heartbreaking death of his seven-year-old daughter Olivia, and acts as a plea to other parents to see common sense and have their children immunised.

Here is the text of his letter:

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.

“I feel all sleepy,” she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.

It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.

Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.

LET THAT SINK IN.

Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?

They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.

So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.

The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.